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The elegant brunette woman clutched a business card in her perfectly manicured hands. It read: “A fully furnished home is the only path to a truly happy life.”–Destiny Andrews, Decorator for Perfect Homes, the family-friendly furniture company.

The pearly pink surface of the card shimmered as I took it. “Thanks.” I had just started my job as an executive assistant in the big city and my own cards hadn’t arrived yet. I wouldn’t have brought them to my company’s Christmas party anyway.

The woman, someone’s date no doubt, gestured for the bar tender to pour me another. “You just moved you said? I can give you a discount for your whole apartment.”

“It’s a studio.” I’d spent the last month in a $3000 a month studio with barely room for a bed and kitchen table. What could she possible do to fix it?

“Well, I love working with quaint spaces. I’ll give you a free quote if you’d like.” Her hand brushed against mine as we both reached for our drinks.

I pulled my hand back, adjusting my dark green shawl. Compared to everyone else, my simple, black dress was shabby. It looked too business-y and stuffy. Destiny smiled at me over her vodka cranberry. The drink matched her lipstick and her slender cocktail dress. It was bold, a little short and a little low cut.

I grabbed the drink she ordered for me. “Thank you, for the drink and the offer. I’m sleeping on a futon. It’s…I haven’t had much time to furniture shop yet.”

“I’ll bet. Where’d you move from?”

“West. Middle of nowhere really.”

“Hon, everywhere is the middle of nowhere compared to here. I’m surprised that after the last of the gas dried up, people stayed in the countryside. They don’t even have electric car ports out there. Not that we need the ones here with the metro and electric lines, but they’re really stuck.” Destiny’s clipped accent, the city accent, made each word sound sharp.

My parents and most of my family were stuck out west. They had known it was coming, but they didn’t want to move. The city was too cramped, too expensive, too liberal. I didn’t blame them, but at twenty-two, the city had all of the opportunities, or at least all of the ones that mattered to me.

When I set my drink down, I had nearly finished it already. Two drinks and no food does it for me. I was grateful that the electric line runs close to my apartment. “I should probably be heading back soon. It was nice to meet you, Destiny.”

Destiny downed the rest of her drink. “I can walk with you back. It’s better to use the buddy system this late.”

It was only 9 pm, and we both knew the electric line was the safest transportation in the country. Women didn’t get attacked anymore, not randomly in this city. I finished my own drink. “You really don’t have to come. I’d hate for you to miss the rest of the party.” Half of my co-workers were still here, settling in for a long night.

“I don’t think I’ll miss much. My friend brought me so she wouldn’t be alone and now she’s over there flirting.” Destiny gestured to the blonde woman who was sitting in a booth whispering to a waiter half her age.

Destiny offered me her arm, and we shuffled out into the cold. Frost coated the sidewalk, slowing us down in our heels. The streets and sidewalks bustled, and snow flakes danced underneath the streetlights. My favorite thing about the city was that even at night, it shone bright as day. The ride to my street went fast, and we arrived at my place still arm in arm. Once upon a time we might’ve been heckled, not anymore.

“Could I come up and see your place? I just like to get an idea of the space that I’m working with.” Destiny asked as I fumbled for my key.

“I don’t think I can afford a bunch of furniture right now. I just moved. I can barely eat.” I said the last part like a joke, but we both knew it wasn’t one.

“The quote is free, and furniture is an investment.”

I let her follow me up the three flights. The building was dingy and smelled moldy. I figured she wouldn’t stay long, just long enough to be polite. It was her fault really for not taking no for an answer. When I opened my front door, her face lit up at the kitchen table tucked between the wall and the back of the unfolded futon. “I can work with this.”

She stepped in before me and started taking my books off the shelves above my table. “We’ll take these shelves out and put in a table that can fold up against the wall. Then we’ll replace this wooden chair with a memory foam bean bag so it can double as a kitchen chair and arm chair.” She looked around a second as if searching for more space. “Instead of a futon, you can loft your bed against the far wall with the window and set up a love seat in the middle of the room. It’ll be cozy, but it would really open up the floor space.”

I couldn’t imagine it. The ceiling didn’t seem high enough to loft the bed. “Thank you for the suggestions.”

“You hate it? What if I wrote up the dimensions and showed you through VR? You could see what the space would really look like.”

“I told you. I can’t afford it.” I kicked off my shoes and filled a glass of water. “Do you want anything to drink?”

She settled herself on the edge of the futon. “Night cap?”

“I have wine or rum?”

“Rum, please.”

“Any mixer?”

“Ice.”

I joined her on the opposite side of the futon. I didn’t usually do this, bring strangers back to my apartment. To be fair, I wasn’t in the dating scene much to begin with.

***

I woke to the front door clicking shut and the sight of cranberry lipstick smudges on my sheets. Half asleep, I swung myself out of bed to lock the door, and I fell and smacked my face on the arm of a couch. Luckily I wasn’t bleeding and I still had all of my teeth. But somehow, overnight, my apartment had been transformed. I sat on my new blue satin couch, staring up at my lofted bed. My boring kitchen table had been replaced with an ugly white and blue tiled table built from iron and the uncomfortable wooden chair had changed into a grey bean bag.

When I locked the front door, I spotted Destiny’s business card on my kitchen counter with a handwritten note:

Great night! I owed you one. Your perfect life begins now. XOXO-Destiny.

To be continued…

***

Like this story? Read part two November 19 or read more like it here: http://www.wedbushwrite.com/links-and-gaps/

Fiction

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